A year and a half’s worth of rape threats

Remember that story about the private Facebook group of male students at Warwick University that featured a lot of rape threats (virtual rape threats, since they were confined to the private group) against fellow students of the female persuasion? The BBC has a new documentary on it.

Early last year, Anna, then 19, was sitting on the sofa in her student house when a stream of explicit messages began popping up on her friend’s laptop.

As more came through, she asked him what they were about, and he laughed.

“He said: ‘Well, if you think that’s bad you might want to see our lads’ chat’,” Anna says. “That’s when he took me through a year and a half’s worth of rape threats.”

As she sat there, she saw in the Facebook chat that he and his friends had changed their names to those of notorious serial killers and serial rapists.

“They were talking about a fellow student. They were talking about abducting her, chaining her to the bed, making her urinate on herself, and then sleep in it.”

I wonder if anyone is shouting at the BBC for kink shaming yet. Isn’t abduction and chaining to the bed and piss play just innocent harmless kink? Isn’t talking about it even more innocent harmless kink?

At first, Anna says her male friend dismissed the chat’s contents as “how boys talk”, saying it was a joke.

She continued scrolling, taking screenshots as she went.

“I just told him that it was for my own peace of mind,” Anna says. “He could see me getting more upset and more upset. And I think that’s when it started to dawn on him that this was probably a lot more serious than he thought it was.”

So then he started to pretend he found it unacceptable too, but she wasn’t buying.

But as she flicked back through reams of messages about gang rape and genital mutilation, her instincts told her otherwise.

“I didn’t know what to do because these people [in the chat] were a huge part of my life,” she says.

She got panic attacks when she started preparing to go back, and at that point she decided to make a complaint. She and a friend did so and were told they would be interviewed. By? The university’s press officer – you know, the guy (yes, guy) in charge of protecting the university’s reputation.

As head of the press office, Peter Dunn was responsible for dealing with the media and protecting Warwick’s reputation as one of the top universities in the UK.

As investigating officer, he was responsible for examining misconduct allegations and recommending which punishments – if any – the men should face.

Mr Dunn held both of these roles, despite the case gaining national media attention after it was reported by the student paperĀ The Boar.

In February 2019, the university admitted “the potential for conflict” between Mr Dunn’s two roles, but insisted relevant press duties were “delegated” during the investigation.

It’s downright Trumpian. “Certainly, we will hear your complaint, here is our PR person to ask you the questions.”

A month after the women were interviewed, five of the men involved in the chat were banned from the university. Two were banned for 10 years, two were banned for one year, and one was given a lifetime campus ban.

Anna and her friend said they were not kept informed of the outcome and instead found out in the press, meaning they didn’t know which punishments corresponded to which men.

But her case wasn’t closed – the two men who had been banned for 10 years appealed against the decision.

After a four-month wait – which the university put down in part to a staff member taking a late summer holiday – they had their bans reduced from 10 years to just one.

Anna and her friend were told there was “new information” but not what it was, or anything else that would justify that decision, a decision that meant they would have to be around these two men a year later. They protested but the vice chancellor told them the case was closed.

Oh well, it’s all just cis privilege, right?

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